Jun. 28—Two local sisters were inspired to launch a community food pantry for those in need after learning about the number of immigrant families who have resettled in the region from Somalia and Afghanistan.
Twins Alizeh and Sania Hammad, 17, of Pittsburg, Kansas, incoming seniors at Thomas Jefferson Independent Day School, are aiming to start a ripple effect of generosity with the project.
They've spent the last several weeks developing a project called Sate Crate, a free food pantry stocked with nonperishables, in an effort to combat food insecurity in the Four-State Area.
Food insecurity is the lack of access to adequate food for an active, healthy life because of limited money or other resources. In Southwest Missouri, 1 in 5 children and 1 in 6 adults face hunger, according to Springfield-based Ozarks Food Harvest.
In July, Sate Crate will be placed at the front gate of the Islamic Society of Joplin, 1805 W 32nd St., and will be filled with food that can be taken as needed. Donations of prepackaged food can be dropped off in the pantry. Monthly food drives will also be held at the Islamic Society of Joplin.
"We haven't fully seen the effects of this yet, but it feels really good to try and do our part to help those in need," Alizeh Hammad said.
The siblings said they wanted to do their part in eradicating hunger in the region after seeing the number of Afghanistan refugees resettling in the area who need support services.
According to The Associated Press, more than 76,000 Afghan refugees have relocated to the U.S. since the Taliban took over in August. Hundreds of Somali refugees also live in Noel and other parts of Southwest Missouri.
"We've seen a lot of poverty in our lives," Sania Hammad said. "My dad is from Pakistan, so we see it there as well. It's a Third World country. With the recent influx of Afghani refugees, we thought we should do our part in helping end hunger. We are aware that one box in Joplin isn't going to end hunger, but we feel like as humans, it's our responsibility to do our part because we can. and we should. We have the ability to do this, so we should help people who don't have the ability to do it."
The free food pantry is open to all, not just refugees. A goal is to have other students or community members continue the initiative after the founders leave for college.
"We hope to continue this, even when we're not here," Sania Hammad said. "We could have other high schoolers working it, or if that doesn't work, we have family who can, but the idea is to have students take over."
Sania Hammad said they got the idea for Sate Crate from Little Free Libraries, which allow users to take a book or leave a book. When asked what they learned, the twins said they had to work and communicate with different community groups to make the project a reality.
"We talked to our city council and asked what they thought about the project, and if they thought it was going to work," Sania Hammad said. "They were completely on board. The box itself also took awhile to build because we had to come up with a design that could keep the food safe but also easily accessible. That was a challenge."
The Sate Crate founders have been spreading the word about the initiative through social media and have created a website, satecrate.org, that offers research findings on hunger.